Sunday, 20 June 2010

Who is he?

Next time we feature man about town, Federico. Who is he, what does he do for a living and what does he think about the Bologna food scene? Oh, and what is his (distant) link with Glastonbury?
We'll also visit the Osteria del Sole in the heart of the old markets area that turns the usual bring your own rule on its head. And eat at newcomer Olivo.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Strawberry semifreddo

The strawberry season is upon us. When you tire of strawberries and cream, this semifreddo will reawaken your love for that most quintessential summer fruit. A semifreddo is a frozen dessert, like an ice cream, but not churned, that can contain cake (unlike this one). The puree served with this one is sharpened with a touch of lemon juice. You can use other fruits such as raspberries or blackcurrants instead of strawberries. Or you could twin raspberry puree with the strawberries of the semifreddo. Or you could add roughly broken up meringue.

6 Eggs

500g Caster sugar

500g Strawberries

750ml Double cream

1 Lemon

1. Whisk the eggs with half the sugar in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water until the mix thickens. Remove from the heat and continue whisking while it cools.

2. Whip the cream and mash half the strawberries. Mix together the egg mixture, the strawberries and the cream. At this stage you could add the meringue.

3. Line a rectangular loaf tin with cling film, pour in the mixture and smooth the surface.

4. Make a puree by forcing the remaining strawberries through a fine wire sieve, adding in sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.

5. Freeze for at least four hours.

6. To serve, turn out and remove the cling film. Slice and serve with a spoonful of the puree.

Vegetables, please

Even the most hardened carnivore or dedicated cheese enthusiast will eventually begin to crave some vegetation, especially in this cheesiest and meatiest of areas. The market in Bologna heaves with a spectacular selection of perfectly ripe and fresh fruits and vegetables. Glistening strawberries, large cultivated varieties and tiny deep red wild berries; luscious cherries; firm asparagus; the reddest tomatoes, all shapes and sizes, clinging to vines; perfectly purple baby artichokes; and tiny courgettes with their delicate yolk coloured flowers. Yet pick your trattorias without care and a visiting tourist could well end up being offered a vegetable diet of little but the odd mixed salad, chipped and roasted potatoes, and perhaps some pale green peas. Here are a  couple of places where you can sample some of the vegetable delights of the market, thoughtfully cooked.

Bistrot 18

Popular with tourists and smart young Bolognese, especially on a sunny lunchtime when pre-booking an outdoor table is a necessity, Bistot 18 offers a good selection of vegetable based dishes. We had fine shavings of raw baby artichokes, simply dressed with olive oil and sea salt, and chunks of larger artichokes, softened and served with a gentle, lemony gremolata - a delicious accompaniment for baked salt cod and black olives. Other contorni offered were braised swiss chard and spinach, borlotti beans and asparagus. The large salads served in deep, multi-coloured coloured bowls are very popular – we tried the ‘Jack’, a generous portion of steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes and cold roast chicken. The desserts are mostly fresh fruit based. A welcome lunch for a pasta and prosciutto weary palate.

Eat Italy @ Ambasciatore

Is it a book shop? Is it a food shop? Is it a chain of cafes? Well, it’s all of those, spread over three floors in the middle of the market ‘quadrilateral’, the series of streets behind Piazza Maggiore dominated by food shops and eating places. Eat Italy takes the idea of a cafe in a book store a step further. Here you can stop for a coffee, have a light lunch or sample wine. You can do your grocery shopping and maybe also listen to a talk or a short performance.

After a weekend of cucina Bolognese, the top floor wine bar offered a refreshing change. We shared a couscous and roasted vegetable dish and a salad fresh from the market of lambs lettuce, tiny black Ligurian olives, baby plum tomatoes and sautéed spring onions

Tuna with roasted red peppers and tomatoes

Spezzatini di Tonno con Pomodorini e Pepperoni

This dish requires a minimum of fuss and preparation. The quality of the ingredients should shine through, especially the freshness of the tuna.

Spezzatini is the term usually used for cubes of beef slow braised in wine. In this recipe the key to success is very rapid deep frying of the tuna so that it retains pinkness inside while the outside begins to brown. You may want to test temperatures and timings with a cube or two of tuna first.

2 Red peppers

9 Small vine tomatoes

500mls Ground nut oil

600g Tuna – fresh not tinned!

2 table spoons flour

2 table spoons Olive oil

1 table spoon Balsamic vinegar

To taste Salt and pepper

1. Put the red peppers in a hot oven to roast for 40 minutes. Remove and skin the peppers.

2. Put the tomatoes whole to roast in an all metal frying pan or a small roasting dish in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove and leave to cool.

3. Cut the tuna into 2-3 cm cubes. Dust with flour all over.

4. Heat a deep fat fryer to 190 degrees C. Carefully insert some of the tuna cubes so that they are free to move and cook for 30 seconds so that are beginning to brown on the outside but remain pink inside. Strain.

5. Put a half of roasted red pepper on each plate. Place alongside it a couple of roasted tomatoes.

6. In the pan that the tomatoes were cooked in add some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and place on a gentle heat for a minute to combine the flavours. Spoon the sauce so created over the tomatoes on each plate. Add the strained fried tuna. That’s it.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Chocolate and chestnut torte

Not enough puddings, you complain. Your impatience is awarded.  Ridiculously easy to make, this torte goes well with crème fraiche or amaretto ice cream. You can make it with whole vacuum packed chestnuts or the puree.

300g Chocolate 70%

200g Butter

300g Chestnuts

100ml Milk

4 Eggs

2 Yolks

125g Caster sugar

20ml Liqueur – Amaretto, Cointreau as you prefer

25g Icing sugar

1. Heat the oven to 175 degrees C. and use a few grams of butter to grease and line a 23 cm. springform type tin.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a basin over simmering water.

3. If you are using whole chestnuts, heat them with the milk until simmering, then mash them or process them to a rough puree.

4. Separate the eggs, put the yolks in a bowl and mix with caster sugar. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the chestnut until you have a smooth, well blended batter. Add the liqueur.

5. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter. Transfer the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes. Check after 30 minutes with a skewer. It doesn’t need to come out clean – the cake needs to be a bit moist when it’s taken from the oven.

6. Leave it to cook before releasing it from the cake tin. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve with a spoonful of crème fraiche and or of ice cream.